Piyush “Bobby” Jindal was elected to be Louisiana’s first non-white Governor since Reconstruction. After acquiring nearly 53% of the primary election vote, he avoided a potential runoff in November. While this might be a significant achievement for an Indian-american, I don’t see the sense of celebratory spirit expressed in Indian newspapers. When I first read the news of the election, I was hoping that the Indian media would downplay it but that was like a snowball’s chance in hell considering how much they went out to laud Gujrat ki beti, Sunita Williams. I’m even told that his ancestral village, Khanpura “erupted in celebration” and “distributed sweets and performed bhangra” at the success of its “son of the soil”. Of course,this is ironic that Jindal had to get away from that soil to achieve his success and probably rarely ever thinks of his village where he wasn’t even born. But probably, I shouldn’t be so harsh. Residents of Khanpura may have had less chances to celebrate and probably have rarely had “sons of the soil” succeed so I don’t blame them for grabbing every chance they get.
Moving away, to look at Bobby Jindal’s election as a vindication of Indian-Americans is mostly bunkum. Of course, he looks brown and in a state where racism still runs deep (remember last week’s story – Jena Six), this is a major event. Bobby Jindal’s stand on certain social issues are particularly disturbing. He converted to Christianity as a teenager and although I am not against conversions per se, the indication that he did so for political reasons are pretty strong (Louisiana may vote for a brown man but definitely not for a non-Christian). I’m sure if he could change his color just like his religion, he wouldn’t think twice. He takes assimilation into the American way a bit too far by pandering to the worst in this society but paying mere lip service to the real spirit that this country embodies.
Bobby Jindal is a staunch conservative Republican. He has stated that he is “100% against abortion, no exceptions.” By no exceptions, he even stands apart from some of his fellow Republicans by supporting an abortion ban without taking into consideration exceptions for the life of the woman, the health of the woman, rape, or incest. He values the life of an unborn fetus over the life of its much-living mother. He is light on gun control and even garners an ‘A’ Rating from the Gun Owners of America. He is for offshore oil and natural gas drilling which prompted his own party’s environmental watchdog to given him demerits. Further, he believes in teaching of intelligent design in schools and doesn’t support hate crime legislation. All these positions hardly make him to be a worthy political candidate in my mind be it white, black, or brown. By not supporting the hate crime legislation, he simply doesn’t understand the sentiments of his fellow brown countrymen who have faced unmitigated and verbalized racist actions. Manish at Ultra Brown rightly identifies him as a “brown Mitt Romney”, ever willing to pander to the regressive wing of the Right.
As far as his foreign policy goes, he is a staunch supporter of Bush’s Iraq War and had even raised an ink-stained finger after elections in Iraq that sought to usher in democracy. The democracy in Iraq faded far faster than the ink on his finger and I’m sure he hasn’t wisened up to that mistake either. If India indeed wants to claim him as one of their own, it should examine if he has had any policy positions in favor of India be it in regards to defense or trade.
While Jindal expresses any pro-India sentiments or not, the Indian media is quick to latch on to any successes enjoyed by individuals with a remote connection to India. I find this exceedingly frustrating and as our (Ex-) Lord of the Blogosphere has repeatedly said, this would happen only in the “land of pygmies.” The very fact that an individual has succeeded outside its shores is not a matter of pride but in fact would be otherwise unless of course, his conception on this soil somehow imbibed some magic qualities in him. Now if some foreigner not born in India would move here and find unprecedented success not likely in their home country, would they still be celebrated as a moment of pride in India. In fact, we have one such individual (not necessarily through merit).